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September 25, 2009

Is this what passes for baseball these days?

One of the milestones that I have yet to expound upon in length is the setting of a new seasonal strikeout record.

Sure, I briefly mentioned it
earlier in the week…but good friend of The Hall, E, has taken it about eighteen steps further.


Mark Reynolds of the Arizona Diamondbacks has broken the old record of 204 strikeouts, set way back in...well, last year by Mark Reynolds.

At 208 Ks with nine games left, he appears poised to make it very difficult for himself to break this record again next year. And, while it was bound to happen, as every record is made to be broken, I think the strikeout record getting topped twice in as many years points towards a disturbing trend in baseball.

The seasonal strikeout record was held for a loooong time by Bobby Bonds. He broke the previous mark of 175 in 1969 with 187, and then broke his own record with 189 the following year.

189 was the record for close to 35 years!

Prior to the turn of the millennium, the closet anyone ever got to the record was when Rob Deer, who sometimes had twice as many strikeouts as hits in a season, got within three in 1987.

In fact, up until 1997, Dave Nicholson's old 1963 mark of 175 was only surpassed five other times, and two of those were Deer! No one wanted that record.

And rightly so, as it expresses a level of ineptitude that not many players want to achieve.

But, as we approached Y2K, a lot of players started closing in.

As the new millennium proceeded, someone (specifically, Adam Dunn) jerked around and managed to break that strikeout record. In just the past five years, it has been reset three more times…most recently by Reynolds.

More than thirty years, and the closest anyone got to Bonds' mark was within three. In the past six years, it's been topped seven times. That old 175 mark has been bested 19 more times in the past 10 years.

Apparently, it's all right to be a strikeout overachiever.

Funny thing, though…over that same 10-12 year time period, the same thing happened to home runs.

When Albert Belle hit 50 homers in 1995, that was the first time someone had done that since Cecil Fielder did it five years earlier. Prior to Fielder…George Foster in 1977.

In the first 126 years of baseball, 50 home runs in a season had happened only 17 times. Since '95, it's happened 21 more times. It's no big deal to hit 50, even 60, homers now.

Coincidentally enough, wasn't that same time period when the whole steroid thing kinda took off?

I'm sure someone could easily blame steroids for the rise in homers and strikeouts, but, seeing as there's little correlation between the home run and strikeout numbers, this assumption would lead one to believe that steroids grant the user one of two abilities: (1) hitting lots of homers, or (2) striking out an irrational number of times.

The easier conclusion to reach is that, because of the recent increased importance of the home run, batters aren't even attempting to put the ball in play anymore, opting to merely swing so hard that they corkscrew themselves into the ground like a Looney Tunes character every time they miss.
I think that, if more emphasis was placed on just making contact with the ball instead of trying to knock its cover off, strikeouts would go down.

Sure, homers would go down, too, but I'd rather watch someone get 200 hits than watch them not hit anything 200 times.

As for Reynolds and his dubious mark, he might want to focus more on contact and less on power.

The career strikeout mark is 2597, held by Reggie Jackson. Only four players (including Jackson) have topped 2000 Ks in their careers, and no one in the history of baseball has gotten within 250 of Jackson's record.

That being said, at his current place, Reynolds will break Jackson's record within 10 years…a mark it took Jackson 21 years to set, and this dope, in three season, is already a quarter of the way there.

No wonder I can barely be bothered to pay attention to baseball anymore.

BallHype: hype it up!

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